Scarlett Johansson is taking legal action against Disney for alleged breach of contract after the company added Black Widow to its streaming platform Disney+ at the same time as the film’s cinema release. Black Widow is the latest release in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and had its worldwide premiere on June 29.
Prior to the pandemic, usual protocol would mean fans would’ve had to wait three months before catching a film on-demand on streaming platforms like Disney+. They would otherwise have to catch the film as it is released in theatres. However, in order to maximise viewership, major studios have been experimenting with releasing a film both on streaming platforms and theatres at the same time.
For Black Widow, which also stars Midsommar and Little Women’s Florence Pugh and The Favourite’s Rachel Weisz, its earnings grossed £157 million in its first week — breaking the box office record during the pandemic. However, by the second weekend, its earnings had reportedly plunged as far as 67%, according to Forbes.
Johansson claims that she was promised by Marvel Studios that the film would have a “theatrical release,” and understood this to mean a "window" of time would pass before it would be streamed. This period has traditionally lasted around 90 days.
The suit reads: “Disney intentionally induced Marvel’s breach of the agreement, without justification, in order to prevent Ms Johansson from realizing the full benefit of her bargain with Marvel.” Per BBC News, media reports claim Johansson has lost at least $50 million.
The complaint also claims that the actress’ legal team reached out to the studios as far back as 2019 with concerns about this, and there was an attempt to renegotiate her contract.
Disney has since responded, saying there is “no merit whatsoever” in the suit, adding that “the lawsuit is especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”